High-altitude physiology and pathophysiology: implications and relevance for intensive care medicine

Crit Care. 2007;11(1):203. doi: 10.1186/cc5142.


Cellular hypoxia is a fundamental mechanism of injury in the critically ill. The study of human responses to hypoxia occurring as a consequence of hypobaria defines the fields of high-altitude medicine and physiology. A new paradigm suggests that the physiological and pathophysiological responses to extreme environmental challenges (for example, hypobaric hypoxia, hyperbaria, microgravity, cold, heat) may be similar to responses seen in critical illness. The present review explores the idea that human responses to the hypoxia of high altitude may be used as a means of exploring elements of the pathophysiology of critical illness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Altitude Sickness / etiology
  • Altitude Sickness / genetics
  • Altitude Sickness / physiopathology*
  • Altitude*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / complications
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A / genetics


  • ACE protein, human
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A